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Honesty is Best Policy

When involved in a personal injury claim, it's vitally important to tell your lawyer everything-the good, the bad and the ugly. Nothing is more damaging in a case than getting caught in a lie, no matter how small you think it is. When a judge or jurors find out that a plaintiff lied about one small thing, it taints all of the plaintiff's testimony. It is far better to be truthful about the negative aspects of your case than to gloss over them.

Tambosso v. Holmes, 2015 BCSC 359, is illustrative of the hazards of Facebook and other social media when involved in litigation. After a seven week trial, plaintiff was found not credible and awarded minimal damages. Relevant portions of Justice Jenkins' reasons are as follows:

[173] Examples of postings of the plaintiff on Facebook which conflict with the evidence of the plaintiff are many; I highlight some examples:

a) The plaintiff testified that she loved her position as front desk manager ..., was performing well and putting in extra hours, was intending to make a career out of work in the hospitality industry and expected to be able to manage the hotel or other hotels in the future. Her manager ... was not so complimentary, saying the plaintiff was "great initially at fulfilling her duties", started to struggle towards the end of winter as the job was high stress ... and "was moody, short tempered",... there had been staff complaints, "she was gone at times" ...Facebook postings by the plaintiff reflected the stress of the job, and included posts on February 5, 2008 that she "is feeling over worked ...", on February 9, 2008 that she "could duplicate herself so work would be easier..." and on May 16, 2008 that she "is wishing work didn't interfere with life..."

Facebook postings indicated that the plaintiff quickly returned to join her friends in social events following the 2008 accident. On July 29, 2008 and August 6, 2008, mere weeks after the 2008 accident, [Plaintiff] was tagged in photo albums entitled "K's Stagette" and "K's Stag Part 2" that depict her drinking with friends and river tubing near Penticton. Similarly, numerous posts from October 2008 indicate the plaintiff eagerly anticipated and attended a Halloween party, including her RSVP message to the event page which stated "Yeah Party! You guys have the best parties. I'll be there . . . with bells on! xoxoxo", posts back and forth with friends discussing the upcoming party, and two photo albums ... entitled "Halloween2008" ... depicting the plaintiff dressed in costume at a party with friends. The plaintiff also posted a status update on November 1, 2008 the following day that she "is chillin' on the home front after a crazy week". This directly contradicts the plaintiff's testimony that in the weeks following the 2008 accident "I went to a bad place in my brain", "that time really sucked" and "I knew something was really wrong." It also contradicts her evidence to Dr. R that she forced herself to attend these events in order to combat feelings of discouragement and withdrawal, and that her enjoyment of these activities was "limited". She also appears to have attended numerous other events during that time period, but as these are only evidenced by confirmed Facebook event RSVPs and status updates rather than photographs, I will not place as much weight on those events.

b) Postings by the plaintiff to her Facebook page continued through 2009 however indicated a much less active social life. The plaintiff acknowledged it was during a period when she was having a very difficult pregnancy which, from the plaintiff's description, did interfere with her social life, and was also the time of the alleged assault by Mr. D following which the police were involved and soon thereafter the engagement and close relationship between them ended. It strikes me as odd that the plaintiff's social media activity during this time seems to directly correspond with her reported life circumstances and state of mind, ie. she was having a difficult time so she was less active on Facebook, but her Facebook activity did not appear to diminish immediately following the 2008 accident, despite her testimony that this was a very dark time in her life and the evidence that this was the triggering incident for the PTSD that was diagnosed by the various experts.

c) The plaintiff's Facebook posts continued through 2010 and 2011with somewhat less frequency and enthusiasm than the 2008 posts, though it is natural that a person raising a small child would have to make adjustments to her social activities compared to the extent of her social life prior to her pregnancy. What is notable is that the plaintiff still continued to have relatively numerous posts from friends and photos of events she attended, and there was no notable change in the Facebook activity or posts immediately following the 2010 accident on September 3. I can only make conjectural conclusions from this evidence, so I will not place significant weight on the 2010 posts, but I nonetheless note the absence of a change to her social media behaviour following the 2010 accident.

[174] I conclude that based on this Facebook evidence, in particular the photos of continued attendance at social events and posts from friends, that the plaintiff had a very active social life following the 2008 and 2010 accidents. The social life portrayed by her Facebook profile is consistent with the social life of someone who went through three engagements, the birth of a child, and a marriage. It is completely inconsistent with the evidence the plaintiff gave at trial and to the experts that she was a "homebody" whose "life sucked" and "only had friends on the internet".

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